Black Friday is an annual sales event where retailers offer massive discounts, tempting hoards of shoppers to get the best deals on items they often didn’t know they wanted. 42% of British adults planned to shop Black Friday deals in 2019, with a total spend of 5.5 billion (£5,555,089,845) across the UK.

Black Friday and it’s younger sibling Cyber Monday dominate the advertising sphere for weeks leading up to the event, playing on our principle of urgency and the anticipation of missing out, but these sales contribute massively to our throwaway culture and landfill waste.

Curious how you can shop this event sustainably? Read on to find out more.

The Problem With Black Friday

Black Friday produces an incredible amount of waste for a singular event, with up to 80% of items, including their plastic packaging, either ending up in landfill, incineration, or low-quality recycling if lucky enough.

Online shopping has been on the rise in recent years, 19% of the UK’s retail sales are made online, this produces a whole lot of packaging. A report by DS Smith found that 60% of e-commerce deliveries contain packaging that is either one-quarter air or full of hard-to-recycle plastic fillers and polystyrene to fill empty space, meaning bigger boxes and therefore more delivery vans needed on the road.

The second biggest seller on Black Friday is electronics, which is a big problem when it comes to old appliances. In August 2019, a study revealed 75% of UK households prefer to discard their broken appliances and replace them with newer models, rather than selling or recycling them, respondents were unsure where to take electrical items to be repaired. This lack of knowledge may be the contributing factor to the 1.4 million tonnes of electric waste thrown away each year.

Due to the pressures we face on Black Friday – thinking you won’t get a sale like this again – we often make impulse buys leading to purchases we regret. 21% of Brits made a purchase on Black Friday or Cyber Monday that they later regretted, with 1 out of 3 shoppers returning goods after the event.

Returns are a problem in itself as five billion lbs of returned goods (approximately 2.3 metric tons) are sent to landfills annually in the United States, only 20% of these products are actually defective according to Optoro.

How to Shop Black Friday Sustainably

What To Ask Yourself When Shopping

With 29% of Black Friday purchases being made on impulse buys, there are a few questions you can ask yourself before buying to ensure you will be happy with your purchase.

Do you need the product?

This is an important question to ask yourself when making any purchase decisions, but especially during the busy festive season, don’t allow the time pressure and “once-in-a-lifetime” deals to cloud your judgement.

Create a shopping list of products that you need to buy, perhaps it’s time to upgrade your wardrobe or stock up on cleaning products, or you may have an idea in mind of a gift for a friend, and stick to it. There’s nothing wrong with getting a good deal, but it’s not a saving if you weren’t going to buy it in the first place.

Can you buy it second-hand?

As you already have a product list in mind of what you need to buy, you may be able to buy it second hand instead, this is one of the easiest ways to shop more sustainably, along with the fact you can still grab a great deal.

Buying second-hand reduces the demand for new labour, materials, and shipping emissions. To reduce your impact try shopping on an app like GoEthical allows you to buy pre-loved items in an eco-friendly community.

Is this product available from an ethical producer?

If you’ve got a product you know you want then consider buying it from a sustainable or ethical brand. You will not only be supporting small businesses you will also be promoting a better cause, with many sustainable businesses deciding to donate to charity rather than hold a sale.

Often, shoppers aren’t sure where to find ethical and sustainable brands, that’s why we created GoEthical, the ethical marketplace to buy and sell sustainable, artisan, ethical, and eco-friendly products.

How To Shop More Sustainably

If you’re going to participate in these events, there are some simple steps you can take to shop more sustainably this Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Shop ethical businesses

As mentioned above, if you know what you want to buy it’s worthwhile checking out sustainable suppliers, but if you’re still on the hunt for the perfect gift then we recommend searching for this at an ethical brand instead of chain retailers.

Look for energy-efficient gadgets

If you’re looking to take advantage of the big discounts on various electronics try to look out for the energy-efficient products that both you and the environment can benefit from in the long run. Research products that will make a better management of your energy consumption with your daily use.

Try to place a single order

Do your best to purchase all your items in a singular order to reduce not only the shipping costs of delivery but also the energy use and packaging waste that is produced getting the product to you.

Wrap your gifts in reusable or recyclable packaging

Wrapping paper and gift bags are usually a single-use item that cannot be recycled, with UK consumers throwing away over 83km2 of wrapping paper each year. Choose reusable or recyclable wrapping paper, try DIY gift wrapping, or wrap your gifts in cloths to ensure an environmentally friendly gift-giving experience.

Download the GoEthical App for a more ethical future

Shop from GoEthical this festive season, whether you have a specific product in mind, or you’re looking for Christmas gift ideas. Buy and sell sustainable, artisan, ethical, pre-loved and eco-friendly products at GoEthical. 

Chat and connect with like-minded community members, and discover detailed listings for ethical and eco products from small sellers to well-known global brands for the personal touch this Christmas. 

Download the GoEthical app to start supporting small businesses:

For queries please either email us on

or call us on 020 8337 2175, we look welcome all to our community and forward to hearing from you.

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